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As Ramadan Approaches, Faith Leaders Call For Expanded 24/7 Vaccine Sites - Karen Maniraho

KATE STOCKRAHM, HOST: New York Muslims are preparing for Ramadan this weekend. It’s a month-long fast in which many Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Community leaders are calling for more 24/7 vaccination sites so that those fasting during the day can receive a vaccine once they break fast.

Karen Maniraho spoke to an Islamic scholar who is encouraging his community to get vaccinated ahead of Ramadan.

KAREN MANIRAHO, BYLINE: I’m standing on the corner of Fulton and Bedford Avenue outside of the Masjid At-Taqwa mosque in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The sun is shining and Ramadan is four days away. Before the pandemic, this mosque would be bustling with people. But instead, the mosque is closed and under renovation. Some people are gathered at an overflow site for a socially distanced funeral but for the most part, things feel unusually quiet.

[Birds chirping]

Vaccine eligibility has expanded for New Yorkers that are 16 and older. But it’s still difficult for many New Yorkers to get inoculated. Once Ramadan starts, Muslims New Yorkers may only have a chance to get vaccinated at dusk once they break fast.

Shaykh Ibad Wali is Executive Director of HIllside Islamic Center.

WALI: Vaccine is the opportunity that God is providing. And it's in line with the message of Ramadan, to take care of yourself, Being involved with so many people, so many organizations, so many jobs, responsibilities, you need to take some time to reflect and gather yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, you need to gather yourself and that's what Ramadan has been about.

MANIRAHO: But getting a vaccine hasn’t been easy. New Yorkers say it’s been really confusing and report confusion on how to book appointments. Wali says he’s hearing the same in his community.

WALI: It's unfortunate that – we are not – at a government level, we are not equipped enough to provide a central place, systematically being able to apply and having individuals access the available vaccines, where it's becoming so difficult, it's a jungle.

MANIRAHO: Community leaders like Wali are in a race against time. COVID-19 cases continue to increase throughout the city. In fact, the CDC recently announced that the British COVID variant has become the dominant strain of the virus in the United States.

WALI: it's been difficult, I've been telling people to go here, and then go there and go to this website, go to this location, call this number. So this lack of centralization, and I think the onus is on our government is on our, you know, the leaders of the appointed position to ensure that there should be a seamless process and it should not be a jungle for people to try and, you know, navigate through.

MANIRAHO: New York City Council Member Mark Levine has also called for the city to expand night-time hours at vaccination sites to accommodate the Muslim community

Karen Maniraho. Columbia Radio News.


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